The Sweet Smell of Chocolate

AJ Chocolate House brings authentic European flavor to Park Avenue

If you've noticed a new edition to the shops of Park Avenue, accompanied by an aroma that simply makes you want to melt, it probably means you've walked past AJ Chocolate House. Owners Katherine Urbyte and Edwin Jablonskas recently opened the company’s newest location, and first in the U.S., following in the footsteps of their success in Europe.

Edwin's father opened the first AJ Chocolate House in Lithuania about 20 years ago after selling a successful restaurant business he had owned for many years. At that time, Edwin was only 15 years old.

“He got tired of the restaurant business and sold everything he had. And he was thinking about what to do next,” he said. “He was sort of tired of the restaurant business, but he was still passionate about it. He decided to take a trip to Belgium just out on a whim. I don't even know how he chose Belgium, to be honest. He said that it was some sort of guidance from above.”

Upon his father's return, he announced that they were going into the chocolate making business.

“I could hear the excitement growing and growing every single day. I could finally hear the passion and the spark coming back. Finally, he told me that we were going to bring the best chocolates in the world from Belgium to central Europe. I thought, Okay, sure, who doesn't love chocolate?”

They opened their first location in Vilnius and after a few early missteps – like placing a large amount of chocolate in direct sunlight, melting it – a journalist was walking by and stopped in to visit the shop. That led to an article in a local magazine, followed by more publicity. Before long, their business was booming.

Flash forward to a couple of years ago, and he decided to follow his desire to move to the U.S., specifically Orlando, and started looking for a way to open a location here.

“Orlando is changing rapidly,” he said. “There are a lot of people moving here from different states, and people are looking for finer things in life. And really there's nothing like our concept around here. You have a lot of factory coffee shops, casual dining restaurants, and even upscale dining, but you don't have a location that you would go specifically for a date night, for a celebration, or to extend your experience of dining and then going somewhere for dessert. That's the niche we fill."

While it has been a long journey with its share of ups and downs, Edwin says it's been a rewarding one.

“When I speak about chocolate, people smile. And I like to bring smiles to people's faces. I like to uplift people, and so do my wife and father as well. And I think being in a business where I can enjoy what I do, remember how I felt when I was 16 playing with chocolate, and bring that to Park Avenue is a win for us and the community.”

AJ Chocolate House is located at 552 S. Park Ave. For more information, visit ajchocolate.com.

When I speak about chocolate, people smile.

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